ZOIS Blog

December 13, 2011

Jobseekers Direct Link Expiry

Filed under: Jobcentre Plus Database Mirror — Tags: — Martin Sullivan @ 9:55 am

One of the things that I always seem to be explaining is the Jobseekers Direct web-site’s expiry mechanism and how it defeats linking to vacancy details and bookmarking. This is therefore a synthesis of several e-mails to several baffled would-be end-users of the Jobseekers Direct site.

[Picture: Movie Poster "Dead End"]

Expired links lead to Dead Ends

When one uses Jobseekers Direct your initial interaction, a search for example, is recorded and the pages returned are marked with a hidden session identity. When you do other things this session identity is transmitted to the server. This session information has a time-limit attached to it. When the time-limit expires you get a ‘Session expired’ message, or you’re simply dumped back to the front page. You can therefore link to a vacancy that you’ve found, send that link to friends, put it in a Tweet, or on a page of your own and bookmark it. But the session and the link will expire. The life of these links is therefore very limited. At the moment, it’s not much more than 30 minutes. At the end of that time your link or bookmark will be broken.

As you may have read elsewhere I’ve been scraping their site, initially to allow a raw data-stream. Later this was joined by a web-site, an alternative site with what I like to think has a better search and geography. I thought that at some stage the users of my site would like to see the original vacancy. It’s resulted in a rather cludgy hack that has gradually been refined into what I now refer to as the ‘Redirect Service’.

You use this ‘hack’ by composing a link using the vacancy reference prefaced by ‘http://zois.com’. A reference consists of a three-letter office code followed by a number; they can be separated by an optional slash (‘/’). If you add ‘o’ to this then we’ll try and get the original posting. Briefly, as an example:

The ‘original’ vacancy will no-longer be live by now, but you get the idea

Jobseekers Direct have now introduced a non-expiring ‘direct’ link of their own. It re-writes, under the covers, to a normal session-id larded effort, which in itself is un-bookmarkable. These links have the form:

http://jobseekers.direct.gov.uk/detailjob.aspx?j=<reference>&direct=1

The ZOIS hacks, described above, still work, but now use this mechanism rather than the preceding mini-scrape and cache system. They will continue to work as expected.

Confusingly, Jobseekers Direct only put these links under ‘share’ buttons on a results page. Trying to use the results page as a link itself will still not work.

Prior to the ‘official’ non-expiring link how did it work? I hear you ask. The ‘official’ Jobseekers Direct site expects you to search for a reference, rather than link to it. The Redirection Service basically did this for you under the covers, with caching. Caching, you should note, allowed this to work reasonably quickly with out taxing my servers too heavily. There’s a Technical Note: http://www.zois.co.uk/tn/tn-2010-02-17.html and more explanation, including what can go wrong: http://home.zois.co.uk/jsd_explain.html.

I had been promoting the Redirection Service on Twitter and some ‘official’ Jobcentre Plus offices have been using it to link to vacancies they’ve announced in their postings. They, just as others, would like to link to the vacancies displayed on Jobseekers Direct but, until recently, couldn’t do so directly. The irony is not lost on me. I’m sure its not lost on them, or indeed you. I’m certain that feedback on this almost certainly lead to the introduction of the ‘official’ link system.

Update

Since the advent of the ‘official’ link system, I’ve re-written this post in the past tense for the original scrape-and-cache system has been withdrawn and replaced by a simple Apache re-direct to the ‘official’ non-expiring link system, recently introduced by Jobseekers Direct themselves. The Redirect Service remains open to all, it and the link-shortening will continue to work.

Since the introduction of Universal Jobmatch, the Redirection Services have been completely withdrawn. We’re not to scrape the official site, and thus the Jobcentre Mirror service is slowly being withdrawn. Please read the closure statement. 2012-11-19

6 Comments

  1. [...] official Twittering Jobcentre Plus Offices. I like this grass-roots stuff, and since they’re hampered by Government IT, almost inevitably, I help where I can. I’ve also taken to curating a list [...]

    Pingback by ZOIS Blog » Twittering Jobcentres Discovered This Week — December 22, 2011 @ 10:07 am

  2. [...] using the Redirection Service will have noticed that vacancy will have gone too, although it seems to have lingered a little [...]

    Pingback by ZOIS Blog » For “JSA+EXPENSES” — February 16, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

  3. [...] You’ve seen the @JCPM_Feedback tweets and probably wondered how I’ve spotted them. I’ve an automated process that scans for tweets which have Jobseekers Direct links in them, and then I produce a ‘reply’ introducing the ZOIS Hack. [...]

    Pingback by ZOIS Blog » Long-lived Jobseeker Direct Links — March 22, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

  4. [...] To do so was to leave you with a broken link within the hour. I’ve written about this, at length, and produced the rather convoluted but easy to use mechanism that circumvented this daftness. It [...]

    Pingback by ZOIS Blog » Redirection Redundancy — April 1, 2012 @ 8:07 am

  5. Who is responsible for writing / creating / maintaining Jobseekers Direct?
    Do they have any user feedback or user input mechanisms to help them improve usability, or are they working in a vacuum?

    I cannot find any way to communicate with them about problems or suggestions. Maybe they think there would be too much feedback.
    But then, the fact that there is too much feedback should tell them something in itself shouldn’t it?

    Comment by Ralph Magro — November 22, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

  6. The Jobseekers Direct web-site, for which the link expiry stuff was written was controlled by the Department of Work and Pensons (DWP), via the Jobcentre Plus. It was based on a system written in-house by Employment Services, an ancient constituent part of the DWP. The web-site was EDS’s doing, before they were taken over by HP.

    This is now only of historic interest. The Jobseekers Direct web site has been withdrawn and replaced by Jobsearch Direct, also known as Universal Jobmatch. The new site has a number of failings but it does allow deep linking. The new site is supplied and run for the DWP by Monster, the existing commercial Jobs Board.

    I’m not allowed to scrape it. I’ve had that feedback.

    Comment by Martin Sullivan — November 22, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

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